11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Only we can hear them,
This review is from: Sounds That Can't Be Made (Audio CD)
Marillion take some getting used to - their music can sound randomly shapeless to the casual listener - but, like those Magic Eye pictures that were all the rage in the 90's, if you focus on it, relax the cynical part of your brain and immerse yourself, it expands into another dimension. Although even casual listeners will find three or four instantly engaging songs on this album - if they get past Gaza, that is.
Gaza, the seventeen-minute long opening track, is probably the greatest epic Marillion have recorded, and perhaps the most difficult. Written from the point of view of a child growing up in the Gaza strip, it is heavier than Marillion's usual fare in every way. Forceful and moving, it has the passion of The Invisible Man, the atmosphere of Ocean Cloud, and a climax reminiscent of the "racing the clouds home" section of White Russian from all those years ago. It is that good. And better.
The title track is startling in a different way: imagine The Blue Nile jamming with ELO and you're getting there. After marching through the speakers for four minutes, a characteristic Marillion lull precedes a keyboard solo that builds to a euphoric finale which will be immense live. Venue owners will not believe what they are hearing when a room full of people suddenly chant 'Aurora Borealis' in unison. It sounds like Marillion's new anthem. "Something unreal", Steve Hogarth sings, as Steve Rothery's guitar chimes Marillion o'clock, "but realer than everything. Seeing all the planet's love floating in the air. Caressing you every day. Only we can hear them. Sounds that can't be made."
For me, the pivotal moment of Marillion's long career came in the middle of Out Of This World - the centrepiece of Afraid Of Sunlight, their last album for EMI. "Only love will turn you round," Steve Hogarth sang, "only love." There is an echo of that moment here. "Only love can stop you from merely existing" he almost yells, "play me sounds that can't be made."
They could almost have stopped after those first two tracks: one of the best twenty-five minutes of their career, a tour de force; but Marillion are a musical juggernaut - Hogarth himself once compared their music to an elephant running downhill - so on they go.
I dreaded Pour My Love because of that title with its reverberations of big-haired 1980's rock bands, but what emerged was a gorgeous electric piano sound leading into an exquisitely tender song about bereavement. In complete contrast, the bass-driven Power gives us some idea what a Marillion-James Bond theme might sound like. Despite being decades apart musically, its sinister atmosphere of brooding menace reminded me of Incubus from their second album Fugazi, way back in 1984.
Some mundane recollections from one of Marillion's North American conventions form the lyrical backdrop to the fourteen, mostly laid-back, minutes of Montreal. On first hearing, this seemed weak in comparison to what had gone before; but it gets better with every listen as the sweet vocal melodies osmose themselves into your brain.
Invisible Ink and Lucky Man supply some rousing singalong choruses before the album closes with The Sky Above the Rain - an agonizing portrayal of two people who still love each other but whose relationship has been poisoned. ("She loves him, but she doesn't want him ... When he talks about it, she says he's cruel.") A kind of Not-so-Fantastic Place with as many key changes as Thank You Whoever You Are and [SPOILER] an unexpectedly optimistic finale. ("Maybe they'll talk...")
As always this album will be ignored by the media (Marillion aren't described as one of the UK music scene's best kept secrets for nothing) but maybe that is just as well because if, after twenty years of being snubbed, they were finally invited to appear on Later with Jools Holland, they might end up performing Lucky Man accompanied by Jools on piano, and that would be a travesty: some sounds should not be made.
Sounds That Can't Be Made has an almost valedictory feel - like the culmination of everything they have learned over the last three decades. Perhaps it lacks the deep emotional resonance of their best work (Misplaced Childhood, Brave, Afraid Of Sunlight) but it certainly vies with Marbles as their best album since their heyday. When they released Marbles in 2005, some fans feared that it would be their last. An album so good, so late in their career was a surprise: the chances of them ever reaching such heights again seemed remote; but they kept on going, and they got there.
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Initial post: 24 Sep 2012 04:20:07 BDT
These things are usually highly subjective, but you hit so many nails on the head for me here. Brilliantly-written, insightful review.
In reply to an earlier post on 25 Sep 2012 02:11:28 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Sep 2012 02:13:33 BDT
P. J. Edwards says:
Thanks for that, I hope I've done it justice. It's such a shame more people won't hear it.
One thing I forgot to say was that I can see myself playing Montreal every day for the next six months.
Je t'aime my darling Montreal, indeed!
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